The Buffalo Sabres and Jack Eichel appear to be headed toward a split, even though things have quieted down since the team’s year-end media availability. At that point, Eichel was telling reporters that there was a “disconnect” between his camp and GM Kevyn Adams’ front office regarding his neck injury and it seemed like he already had one foot out the door. Well, that may still be the case, as Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet spoke to WGR 550 in Buffalo today and explained:
That’s the poker game we’re playing right now. Other teams are saying ’you’ve got an unhappy player who doesn’t want to come back’ and the Sabres I really think at the end of the day want to move on. They don’t want him back, they want to move on. The teams are going to play Buffalo’s “desperation” at that. The Sabres have to play a game that says ’okay, you guys can play that game, but somebody is going to get him. If you play it too cool or you play us too hardline, it won’t be you.’
Friedman also noted that some teams are even calling him to see what he knows about Eichel’s injury, given how little information the Sabres have released publicly to this point. The neck injury is a huge sticking point in the trade market, given the uncertainty over whether he will still require surgery and miss part of next season.
Of course, there is also the factor of a long-term contract that carries a cap hit of $10MM. That’s not an easy deal to swallow for any team, even if they can technically fit it at the moment. If Eichel can’t return to the player that scored 36 goals and 78 points in 2019-20, his contract quickly becomes an anchor. A trade will require a team that believes that he can get back to that level, and has the assets the Sabres will want in return. Even if Buffalo wants to move on, Adams will need to maximize the return as much as he can for a player who was seen as a franchise icon to this point.